Poor Peoples’ March fights to save Dallas recreations and senior centers.

On June 23, 2010, a Poor Peoples’ March was held at Dallas City Hall as part of a fight to save recreation and senior centers in the African communities.

There has been a shortfall in the city budget, according to Mayor Tom Leppert and the Dallas City Council.

Therefore, budget cuts of forty to fifty percent (up to $35 million) have been proposed. Most of those cuts are in the African community, including funding for recreation and senior centers in the African neighborhoods of Southern Dallas.

This proposal will determine the destiny of our children and seniors.

The city looks at three types of budgets: budgets for already-funded programs, for should-be-funded programs and for unfunded programs.

The libraries were in the unfunded category. The recreation, community and senior centers will be cut by fifty percent, which will cause some—if not all—to close.

The June 23 demonstration was organized by Pastor Perry Forshee, in alliance with other organizations, to fight against the cuts and keep these services to African communities going.

Other march participants included the Nation of Islam Mosque 48, Dallas Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Citizens for Responsible Budget Cuts in Southern Dallas, National Black United Front, Masjid Al-Islam, Dallas Peace Center, Juvenile Turning Point, Common Ground and African Dallas Citizen.

City Representatives Address March

City Councilwoman Carolyn Davis, in whose district the programs are being cut, told the demonstrators that she and another councilmember attempted to talk to Mary Suhm, the city manager, about the budget cuts.

Ms. Suhm had walked out during the city council meeting, but it was demanded that she stay and explain the budget cuts.[ABS2]

Councilwoman Davis said, “It’s good that you are out here in front of city hall under the shade. But if you really want to be heard, go to the sixth floor to city council chambers and speak out. Let them know that you don’t want the cuts in our community. Go upstairs and be heard.”

Demonstrators did go upstairs, and they proceeded to put Mayor Leppert under intense pressure to explain the budget cuts.

He addressed the crowd, saying that he had had to find funds to cover the budget shortfall without cutting the public safety budget.

In other words, the City does not want to cut the police budget.

Former councilmember Diane Ragsdale added that reductions to public safety funding would lead to an increase in crime.

What the Cuts Will Mean for Africans

For years, recreation and community centers have kept our children out of trouble. If those centers disappear, crime will increase. The absence of activities like swimming and sports will definitely increase the crime rate.

Pastor Forshee believes that cutting funds for recreation centers could lead to having to build more jails, which puts our youths at risk.

The closing of libraries in the African community will cause an increase in illiteracy. Our children also will have no place to go to receive tutoring after school.

The budget for our cultural center has already been cut.

Cuts to senior programs and senior centers, which provide health care, dental care and long term care, also are being proposed. The cuts will end these programs all together.

Our elders are the foundation and bedrock of the African community. Cutting those funds may kill our elders.

Dallas Local Government Different from Other Cities

The local government in Dallas has a strong mayor-centered government. This is quite different from governance in other cities.

In Dallas, if any ordinance is to be passed, it can be passed through only a one-vote majority. The mayor is the City Council-at-Large, so he has one vote.

In addition, Africans and Mexicans are the minority on the council; Europeans are the majority, so nothing can change without European councilmember votes. As a result, Africans and Mexicans are forced to compromise or submit to the Europeans’ agenda.

The minority council members continue to compromise, thinking that change will come some day.

However, we know that the only way that the City can keep taxes low for the wealthy in North Dallas is to cut programs for the poor and working class in South Dallas.

The wealthier communities of North Dallas may not see tax cuts at all. These same patterns of selective tax cuts are being faced also by Africans in Philadelphia, Oakland and Miami.

Whites will tolerate a tax increase if it will serve and benefit their community. There are good white folks who won’t mind a tax increase.

In fact, part of the budget shortfall probably is due to money being spent on the new city-owned convention center that is currently under construction.

Civil Rights History In Dallas

The fight for civil rights played out differently in Dallas than it did in other cities. This is the city that turned Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. away.

The Black Panther Party protested when Dallas blocked Dr. King from entering the city. They blasted the church leaders that refused to see him.

One of them was S. M. Wright, for whom the freeway at I-45 is named.

We Must Take Action

Pastor Forshee followed up with the community to form the next plan of action.

We must stop the tax cuts to the wealthy from taking place and stop the police harassment in the African communities.

We must propose a tax increase that is more fair and equitable. That means increased taxes on more expensive homes, as opposed to increasing taxes on to lower-cost homes. 

Help save our elders, save our children! Touch one, touch all!

Uhuru!

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